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Hijab-wearing Barbie doll introduced in honor of Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad

By: Des Bieler, The Washington Post
November 14, 2017 Updated: November 14, 2017 at 1:42 pm
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Mattel introduced a Barbie doll Monday inspired by U.S. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. Associated Press photo.

Mattel introduced a Barbie doll Monday inspired by U.S. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, that the company said would go on sale next year. It will be the first Barbie doll to wear a hijab, and Muhammad described Mattel's honoring of her achievements as "very moving."'

The first athlete to wear a hijab while representing the U.S. at the games, Muhammad also became the first Muslim-American woman to win an Olympic medal, taking a bronze in team saber last year. "Ibtihaj continues to inspire women and girls everywhere to break boundaries," the Barbie makers said.

The doll was introduced at the Glamour Women of the Year gala in New York, where Muhammad was on hand to express her gratitude. "I had so many moments as an athlete, where I didn't feel included, where I was often in spaces where there was a lack of representation," the 31-year-old New Jersey native said (via the AP). "So to be in this moment, as a U.S. Olympian, to have Mattel, such a global brand, diversify their toy line to include a Barbie doll that wears a hijab is very moving to me."

"There was so much about the doll that was important to me," Muhammad added. "I know as a kid I was bullied for having larger legs, and sport taught me to embrace my body and to love my body and the strength that it could produce.

"I think that having strong legs helped me win a medal at the Olympic Games, so I wanted my legs to be larger, more athletic legs, toned legs. And I am very into eyeliner, so I wanted a strong-winged cat eye. And Mattel listened to everything, everything even down to the fabric of the hijab."

The doll will be the latest addition to Barbie's Sheroes line, which already includes Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas. Other women honored as Sheroes include film director Ava DuVernay, model Ashley Graham, ballerina Misty Copeland and country music artist Trisha Yearwood.

In recent years Mattel has endeavored to diversify its Barbie dolls, which have been criticized in the past as promoting narrow and physically improbable standards of female beauty. Last year, the company announced that a line of the dolls would be available in tall, petite and curvy forms.

In addition to the hijab, Muhammad's doll features her helmet, saber and Nike shoes. "Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented, and by honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything," Sejal Shah Miller, Barbie's vice president of global marketing, said in a statement.

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